Falling in love is easy. It’s everything else that’s tricky. The wooing, the courting... I learned that the hard way.
I met Gemma when I was 19.
‘She’s beautiful.’ I said to my dad.
‘Aye, son?’ He said back to me.
‘Aye.’ I nodded.
I’d met her when I was out on a Spring Saturday.
We were hanging out at our spot – a dry wall covered by the MacDaniels’ Barn, and she’d come along.
‘This is Gemma, my cousin.’ Duncan had said.
I was amazed.
How could so much sexiness be put in one body?
She had, let me see... blonde curly hair. She had the biggest, you know. And legs, boy did she have legs... And she wasn’t afraid to show them.
‘And who are you?’ She’d asked me. Me. She’s asked me.
‘I’m Jimmy.’ I’d said with my chest puffed up.
‘And what do you do Jimmy?’ She’d asked.
‘I help my dad on the farm.’ I’d said, still puffed up.
‘Very nice. And are you coming to the dance next Saturday?’ She’d said with a coy smile.
‘I... I am.’ I’d stammered, nodding, looking at her.
‘I’ll see you there then. I’ll meet you there.’ She’d said.
And that was it. I was in love.
I pranced around our bright yellow kitchen.
‘What about son?’ My dad asked.
My mum was doing the washing up.
‘He needs something to wear for the dance.’
I grinned. She’d read my mind.
My dad looked over at me. After a long pause:
He took a pause.
‘And my old courting twinset won’t do it?’
He sized me up like I was a new lamb trying to walk.
‘Then we’d better get you something,’ he said. ‘Something from town.’
‘Do you really think she’ll be there?’ I said while we drove down the old track.
‘If he invited you son...’
‘She did... sort of... yeah.’
I opened the car window and leant my arm on the ledge. I took a lungful of fresh air. The fields were looking... well, delightful is the word. New shoots were shedding the old, and the spring-time youngsters were wobbling and nuzzling.
‘Let’s just hope old Bessie holds out on us.’ Dad tapped the car.
A knot formed in my stomach. It was about a quarter past three.
‘I hope so.’
We drove on in companionable silence. Dad wasn’t really one for the words.
We got to the shops about a quarter past four.
‘Time to go in son.’
I walked up to the shops holding my breath, and read the sign.
‘Back in five.’ It said.
‘We’ve to wait dad.’ I said when he came and found me after parking up.
So we waited. We waited and we waited.
Twenty-five minutes went by. Five to five now. The knot increased.
‘Dad,’ I said, biting my bottom lip.
He took his cue.
‘I’ll go and see what’s going on. Hold there son.’ He walked around the shop. He must have been ten whole minutes. It seemed like that anyway.
‘Sorry about that, wee problem with the wain. Banged her tooth.’ A voice called out from behind the shop. ‘Come in, we’d normally have shut up at five but your dad’s explained about the dance.’
‘Thank you.’ I said genuinely. ‘Thanks dad.’
She opened up the door for us and we stepped in gratefully.
There were suits of all shapes and sizes.
I’d never owned one before.
‘How about this blue one?’ My dad pulled out a suit with a ruffle-neck.
‘Noo.’ I said, with an embarrassed laugh. ‘This one.’ It was a grey number. Very smart.
‘It looks great on you.’ The lady from the shop agreed when I had it on.
I was so excited. I had my suit, I was ready to dance, metaphorically. I wouldn’t be actually dancing. I’d stopped doing that when I was eleven.
Only two hours to go.
‘You look gorgeous son.’ Mum said when I came down all suited up after dinner. I’d done my hair and everything.
‘Are you going to take me to the dance dad?’
‘I am son.’
‘I’m going to see Gemma.’ I sang to everyone and no one.
My mum and dad both smiled.
We got in the car all ready to go. All ready to go. To go. Come on, why weren’t we going?
The car spluttered, stopped and started, and then gave a great shudder. We weren’t going anywhere.
Inside I died a little.
‘That didn’t sound too good dad.’ I said, making light of the situation.
We got out of the car to check under the bonnet.
‘I can’t see what’s the problem son, we’re going to have to call a mechanic.’
‘Oh no.’ I wondered if I could run to the dance anyway.
My dad seemed to read my mind.
‘You’d tire yourself out for the dance if you tried to get anywhere now son.’
So we called a mechanic.
‘She really is beautiful dad. Gemma...’
He smiled at me, then he looked at his watch. They said they’d be about an hour. They had to come from Dumfries.
We waited... again. At least this time we could have a cup of tea.
The mechanic drove up at a leisurely pace then got out of his car and strolled up the drive. I know ‘cause I’d been looking out of the window since we’d called him.
‘Come on...’ I said under my breath.
‘My son has a dance to go to.’ My dad said seriously when the mechanic got to the door. ‘So if we can, you know.’
The mechanic dropped his jovial manner. He looked at me and could probably see my pained expression.
‘Yes, now where’s the vehicle?’
I waited with bated breath.
‘There you go, you should be fine now.’ He finally said.
‘Let’s go, go, go. Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ I said to the mechanic.
And we whizzed away.
We got there just in the nick of time. Seven thirty. Well it wasn’t too late anyway.
‘This is great dad,’ I said. ‘We might have just pulled this off.’
This time I was all prepared. Nothing could stop me. My mum had even picked some flowers for me to give to her. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go that far but I brought them just in case.
‘Mum...’ I’d sighed when she’d given them to me. But I brought them anyway.
As we neared I started to get all nervous. I checked my breath in my hands. I had double brushed my teeth.
I straightened out my suit.
‘No problem son.’ He smiled.
I opened the car door. Time to go in.
‘Go on.’ He nodded his head to the door.
I walked over, breathing deeply. I didn’t know where to hold my flowers. I held them behind my back. No, I put them on the window sill. I just took one single flower and held it up. With my other arm I opened the door. I took a deep breath. The door opened. And there in front of me, was Gemma, snogging my friend Rory.
I stood still for a moment. Everything seemed to stop. I mean nothing really stopped, but my heart did, for a second. My eyes were wide open and my mouth the same.
I shook my head, dropped my flower and quickly ran back out into the carpark.
My dad was still there.
I stumbled to the car and got back in.
And then I cried. I cried into my sleeve.
‘She was... she was with someone else.’
My dad said nothing. He rummaged in his pocket and pulled out a tissue.
I blew my nose.
‘She was beautiful though dad.’ I finally said.
‘Aye, son. Aye.’
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